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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)

By Sylvia Hensel



The old woman sat in her rocker pondering the events of the previous day. The chatter and laughter, along with the shrieks and giggles of her great-great-grandchildren, had blessed her as her family and friends gathered to celebrate her ninetieth birthday, but she had soon grown tired.

It had been wonderful having the family there, but she preferred the silence. She liked being alone with her memories. As she sat rocking, she wondered, “When had I grown old? Wasn’t it just yesterday that Betty and I made our way to the band concert in the park?” Memories came flooding back, for that was the first time she had seen Ed. He was new in town, and had taken a job where her brother worked.

There he stood talking with Nick. He was the most handsome man she had ever seen. All she could think of was, “I just want to caress his beautiful, rugged face.” The four of them spent the evening together. What a glorious time they had, singing and dancing to the music, eating cotton candy, hot dogs, and drinking Orange Crush. They talked for hours, and yes, before the evening was over she had reached over and touched his face.

Love came quickly, and within four months they were married. Their first child, Sarah, was born a year later, then Steven, then along came Sally. She and Ed had saved to buy their house in the country where she still lived. She laughed softly, and sighed as she thought of the many wonderful times they had spent there as a family.

Then came that horrendous Sunday in December of 1941; the day the world went crazy. She remembered crying with her parents and siblings as family members marched off to war. Ed was exempt because of his age and having a family. However, there came the day when every able-bodied man was called to serve.

She was devastated, but Ed assured her that the war couldn’t last much longer, and he was right. Nine months later, the war was over. Ed was coming home. She couldn’t wait to caress his handsome, rugged face, the thought of it thrilled her soul. She bought herself a new floral printed dress and new shoes. She wanted to look beautiful for her Ed.

A tear slipped down the old woman’s cheek as she thought of the day Ed was due back. How excitement had quickly turned to sorrow in a matter of minutes. As she and the children were preparing to leave for the train station the doorbell rang. Thinking it was Ed coming in early, her heart began to pound. She ran for the door, ready to throw herself into his arms, only to find a boy from Western Union standing there.

She knew, like so many others what that meant. The dreaded telegram, “We are sorry to inform you that Edward Buckley has been killed in action.” It went on to explain that he and ten others were caught in an outbreak of enemy fire. Condolences were given by the President.

All the dreams they hoped to share were shattered; like whispers in the wind, gone before they were ever heard. Her beautiful floral dress was replaced with the black of widowhood as she and the children went to train station the day they brought Ed home. Instead of reaching out to touch his face, she reached out to touch the cold, hard surface of his coffin.

Over the years she found that a broken heart doesn’t stop life from moving on. Time heals the wounded heart, but thank God, cannot quell the memories, for that is what sustained her in her loneliness. Every day she lived a million yesterdays.

Memories begin to fade as she dozes off in her rocker; eternal sleep has come at last. Now she can hear the whispering in the wind, “Come my beloved and caress my face.”

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This article has been read 333 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Theresa Santy 04/14/11
I had a difficult time with this theme (ended up not writing anything). Every time I thought of 'outbreak' I pictured the same typical scenerio, something vile starting small, then mounting and mounting until devastation. I wanted to come up with something different, but couldn't.

You did.

And it was brilliant. Loved it.
Joe Moreland04/16/11
This is a beautiful look into the heart and soul of an elderly woman. So often the rest of us forget how much life they have lived and how much they have to remember. Great job!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/19/11
This brings tears to my eyes, so many are changed forever because of a war. This is well-written and a tribute to everyone who has lost someone to war.
Noel Mitaxa 04/21/11
Moving, sensitive treatment of entering the life and memories of a war-ravaged family. Warm, credible and very descriptive.